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The Story of a Little Hero

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

by Doug Cutchin

Every now and then, the effects of a severe weather event can be successfully countered by small things. In the case of an historic 4-inch rainstorm which dumped its water on Spring Hill Road in East Sandwich in early August 2023, the small thing turned out to be our Fort House “resident” chipmunk.


Sometime in April or May our little hero decided he needed to create a new and bigger “larder” for the next winter in his life. He knew exactly how to create a huge storage area with a minimum of work. Thus, early one morning, he set to work on his plan. He measured off about four feet from the shed entry at the exterior stone foundation of the Fort House and began digging a neat 4-inch hole under the sill at a slanted angle under the floor. After about hour’s effort he “punched” his tunnel into our 6-foot deep root cellar located beneath the kitchen floor. He was very pleased with his project and now had the whole summer to fill his larder with food for the upcoming winter.


Then nature served his well laid plans a disappointing blow. The 4-inch storm created a torrent of water funneled directly from Spring Hill Road to our shed entrance door. The water quickly flooded up and over the door threshold and into the shed. The kitchen door, which is slightly raised above the shed floor, was threatened by the flow of water. The water rose up three inches to four inches high but was “vented” by flowing into our outhouse bench, down into the large “toilet hole”. Thence the water made its way out the back shed wall onto the lawn leading to the marsh. This would not have been enough relief if that was the only way the torrent exited the shed.


However, the hole the little chipmunk had established funneled more than 2,000 gallons of water into our root cellar before it got to the shed door. The root cellar filled with five feet or more of water. If this “vent” had not been there the Fort House kitchen floor and more would have received several inches of water, causing much damage.


Maybe we should place a framed picture of our chipmunk on the wall in the kitchen proclaiming him a hero and honorary WFA member. Just a suggestion.


Dave Wheelock, WFA caretaker, who confirmed our hero chipmunk story, Christina Shipps, WFA Curator, and Doug Cutchin, WFA Property Manager, are exploring ways to avoid a reoccurrence of this event. A water engineer’s estimate to divert water away from the Fort House is approximately $15,000. Doug, Christina and Dave will continue to look for more cost-effective options.


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